August 2014

History Selection

Edmund Ignatius Rice Died August 1844
Edmund Ignatius Rice
 August 1844
Roger Casement Died August 1916
Roger Casement
 August 1916
Michael Collins Died August 1922
Michael Collins
 August 1922
Éamon de Valera Died August 1975
Éamon de Valera
 August 1975
Kevin Lynch Died August 1981
Kevin Lynch
 August 1981

Ireland in 1990

January 1st: The Northern Ireland Fair Employment Act became law.

January 10th: The room being used by the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion was destroyed by fire.

January 13th: The British Army shot dead three robbers in West Belfast, giving rise to new claims of a 'shoot to kill' policy.

February 19th: The BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama highlighting members of the UDR convicted of serious offences.

February 21st: The DUP passed a 'Hands off the Ulster Defence Regiment' petition to Downing Street.

Gordon Highlander in Belfast, 1990
A British soldier in Belfast, 1990
Charles Haughey
Charles Haughey, early 1990s
March 1st: An appeal to the Irish Supreme Court by Chris McGimpsey and Michael McGimpsey on the issue of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution was rejected.

March 14th: Disturbances at Crumlin Road Gaol over segregation

April 3rd: All parties supported the Criminal Justice Bill that would abolish capital punishment.

April 11th: Taoiseach Charles Haughey made the first official visit to Northern Ireland by a Taoiseach since 1965.

April 26th: The Labour Party selected Mary Robinson as its candidate in the presidential election.

May 8th: Death of Tomás Ó Fiaich, Primate of All Ireland.

May 17th: A summary of the Stevens Report was published. It found that there had been evidence of collusion, but 'neither widespread nor institutionalised'.

June 30th: Ireland was beaten by Italy in the World Cup.

July 1st: Huge crowds greeted both the Irish football team and the South African President, Nelson Mandela.

July 2nd: Nelson Mandela addressed a joint session of both houses in the Oireachtas.

Nelson Mandela in Dublin, 1990
Nelson Mandela in Dublin
Aftermath of stock exchange bombing
Aftermath of stock exchange bombing
July 11th: The Criminal Justice Act abolished capital punished. The last person to be executed had been Michael Manning in 1954.

July 20th: The IRA bombed the London Stock Exchange, causing massive damage.

July 24th: An IRA car bomb killed three policemen and a nun.

July 30th: Conservative MP Ian Gow was killed outside his English home by the IRA.

August 24th: Irishman Brian Keenan was released from captivity in Beirut.

August 28th: Funding for Irish language group Glór na nGael withdrawn by Northern Ireland Office.

September 28th: Celebration of the centenary of People's Park, Dún Laoghaire.

September 30th: Two teenage joy riders were shot dead by the British army in Belfast.

October 24th: The IRA killed six soldiers and a civilian in proxy bomb attacks at Derry and Newry.

October 25th: President Brian Lenihan denied trying to stop the dissolution of the Dáil in 1982.

Lee Clegg in 1995
Lee Clegg, who shot two joyriders, in 1995
Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson
October 31st: Brian Lenihan was dismissed from government over the 1982 controversy.

November 9th: Mary Robinson was elected the seventh President of Ireland.

November 9th: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke made a major speech, saying that Britain had no 'selfish economic or strategic interest' in Northern Ireland.

December 3rd: Mary Robinson was inaugurated as the first female President of Ireland.

December 30th: PIRA member Fergal Caraher died in a British army ambush in Cullyhanna.

Éamon de Valera
Revolutionary and statesman

Éamon de Valera in military uniform

Éamon de Valera  during the War of Independence

Éamon de Valera in 1937

Book Review

The Oxford History of Ireland

Author:     R. F. Foster

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Date published: 2001 [Reissue]

The Oxford History of Ireland

Revisionist historian R. F. Foster's comprehensive account of Irish history takes the reader from the earliest days of prehistoric Ireland through to the conflict of the 1970s and 1980s; although hardly a republican, Foster concedes 'the futility of a constitutional settlement which left the Catholic third of Northern Ireland's population to fend for itself'. This is a series of essays that do not demand to be read in any particular order; the first deals with ancient Ireland, the second with the Norman invasion and the gradual absorption of the Anglo-Normans into Gaelic society; the third covers the time of the Tudors and Cromwell, the fourth maps the affects of the Protestant Ascendancy and the Union, and the fifth describes the course of history for a century after 1870. Following this detailed and eloquent walkthrough of Irish history, Foster then embarks on an examination of Irish culture, beginning with the theme of Ireland as a woman. Celtic culture was replete with ueber-masculine heroes; yet the Gaelic ways collapsed under foreign tyranny, and by the 19th century 'Victorian determinism' viewed the Irish as 'prisoner[s] of heredity, diet, and climate'. Gaelic and Anglo-Irish literary revivals followed, in an attempt to restore Irish identity; the decades after independence brought a mixture of innovation and censorship, a leaden moralism which, at the time Foster wrote, was still being practised.

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People

The Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede, eighth century monk

At the present time, there are five languages in Britain, just as the divine law is written in five books, all devoted to seeking out and setting forth one and the same kind of wisdom, namely the knowledge of sublime truth and of true sublimity. These are the English, British, Irish, Pictish, as well as the Latin languages; through the study of the scriptures, Latin is in general use among them all. To begin with, the inhabitants of the island were all Britons, from whom it receives its name; they sailed to Britain, so it is said, from the land of Armorica, and appropriated to themselves the southern part of it. After they had got possession of the greater part of the island, beginning from the south, it is related that the Pictish race from Scythia sailed out into the ocean in a few warships and were carried by the wind beyond the furthest bounds of Britain, reaching Ireland and landing on its northern shores. There they found the Irish race and asked permission to settle among them but their request was refused.

Bede translates John, by J.D. Penrose

Now Ireland is the largest island of all next to Britain, and lies to the west of it. But though it is shorter than Britain to the north, yet in the south it extends far beyond the limits of that island and as far as the level of North Spain, though a great expanse of sea divides them. The Picts then came to this island, as we have said, by sea and asked for the grant of a place to settle in. The Irish answered that the island would not hold them both; ‘but’, said they, ‘we can give you some good advice as to what to do. We know of another island not far from our own, in an easterly direction. If you will go there, you can make a settlement for yourselves; but if any one resists you, make use of our help.’ And so the Picts went to Britain and proceeded to occupy the northern parts of the island, because the Britons had seized the southern regions. As the Picts had no wives, they asked the Irish for some; the latter consented to give them women, only on condition that, in all cases of doubt, they should elect their kings from the female royal line rather than the male; and it is well known that the custom had been observed among the Picts to this day. In course of time Britain received a third tribe in addition to the Britons and the Picts, namely the Irish. These came from Ireland under their leader Reuda, and won lands among the Picts either by friendly treaty or by the sword. These they still possess. They are still called Dalreudini after this leader, Dal in their language signifying a part.

Ireland is broader than Britain, is healthier and has a much milder climate, so that snow rarely lasts for more than three days. Hay is never cut in summer for winter use nor are stables built for their beasts. No reptile is found there nor could a serpent survive; for although serpents have often been brought from Britain, as soon as the ship approaches land they are affected by the scent of the air and quickly perish. In fact almost everything that the island produces is efficacious against poison. For instance we have seen how, in the case of people suffering from snake-bite, the leaves of manuscripts from Ireland were scraped, and the scrapings put in water and given to the sufferer to drink. These scrapings at once absorbed the whole violence of the spreading poison and assuaged the swelling. The island abounds in milk and honey, nor does it lack vines, fish, and birds. It is also noted for the hunting of stags and roe-deer. It is properly the native land of the Irish; they emigrated from it as we have described and so formed the third nation in Britain in addition to the Britons and the Picts. There is a very wide arm of the sea which originally divided the Britons from the Picts. It runs far into the land from the west. Here there is to this day a very strongly fortified British town called Alcluith (Dumbarton). The Irish whom we have mentioned settled to the north of this arm of the sea and made their home there.[...]

From that time Britain, or the British part of it, which had been stripped of all its armed men, its military supplies, and the whole flower of its active youth, who by the rashness of the dictators, had been led away never to return, lay wholly exposed to plunderers and the more so because the people were utterly ignorant of the practice of warfare. For instance, they were rapidly reduced to a state of terror and misery by two extremely fierce races from over the waters, the Irish from the west and the Picts from the north; and this lasted many years. We call them races from over the waters, not because they dwelt outside Britain but because they were separated from the Britons by two wide and long arms of the sea, one of which enters the land from the east, the other from the west, although they do not meet. Half way along the eastern branch is the city of Giudi, while above the western branch, that is on its right bank, is the town of Alcluith (Dumbarton), a name which in their language means ‘Clyde Rock’ because it stands near the river of that name.

As a result of these invasions, the Britons sent messengers to Rome bearing letters with tearful appeals for aid, promising to be their subjects for ever, if only they would drive away their threatening foes. An armed legion was quickly dispatched to them which duly reached the island, attacked the enemy, destroying a great number of them and driving the rest from the territories of their allies. When the Romans had freed them from their dire distress, they urged the Britons to build a wall across the island from sea to sea, as a protection against their foes. And so the legion returned home in great triumph. The islanders built the wall, as they had been bidden to do, but they made it, not of stone, since they had no skill in work of this kind, but of turves, so that it was useless. They built many miles of it between the two channels or arms of the sea already mentioned, so that where there was no water to shield them, the protecting wall might defend their borders from enemy incursions. The clearest traces of the work constructed there, in the form of a very wide and high wall, can be seen to this day. It starts almost two miles west of the monastery of Aebbercurnig (Abercorn) in the place which the Picts call Peanfahel, while in English it is called Penneltun (Kinneil). It stretches westward as far as Alcluith (Dumbarton).

But as soon as their former foes saw the Roman soldiers depart, they took ship and broke into their borders, felling, trampling, and treading down everything they met, like reapers mowing ripe corn. Once more envoys were sent to Rome with pitiful appeals for help so that their wretched country might not be utterly destroyed, and the name of a Roman province, long renowned amongst them, might not be obliterated and disgraced by the barbarity of foreigners. Once again a legion was sent, which arrived unexpectedly in the autumn and did great destruction amongst the enemy, while all who succeeded in escaping were driven across the waters; before this they had been accustomed to carry off their booty every year across the same waters without any opposition. Then the Romans informed the Britons that they could no longer be burdened with such troublesome expeditions for their defence; they advised them to take up arms themselves and make an effort to oppose their foes, who would prove too powerful for them only if they themselves were weakened by sloth. Moreover, thinking that it might be some help to their allies who they were compelled to abandon, they built a strong wall of stone from sea to sea in a straight line between the fortresses which had been built there for fear of the enemy, on the site which Severus had once made his rampart. So, at public and private expense and with the help of the Britons, they made a famous wall which is still to be seen. It is eight feet wide and twelve feet high, running in a straight line from east to west, as is plain for all to see even to this day. When it was complete they gave some heartening advice to this sluggish people and showed them how to make themselves weapons. In addition they built lookout towers at intervals along the shores of the Ocean to the south, where their ships plied and where there was fear of barbarian attacks. And so they took leave of their allies never to return.

Bede in the Nuremburg Chronicles

Bede pictured in the Nuremburg Chronicles

After the Romans had gone back to their own land, the Irish and Picts, who knew they were not to return, immediately came back themselves and, becoming bolder than ever, captured the whole of the northern and farthest portion of the island as far as the wall, driving out the natives. There the Britons deployed their dispirited ranks along the top of the defence and, day and night, they moped with dazed and trembling hearts. On the other hand the enemy with hooked weapons never ceased from their ravages. The cowardly defenders were wretchedly dragged from the walls and dashed to the ground. In short, they deserted their cities, fled from the wall, and were scattered. The enemy pursued and there followed a massacre more bloodthirsty than ever before. The wretched Britons were torn in pieces by their enemies like lambs by wild beasts. They were driven from their dwellings and their poor estates; they tried to save themselves from the starvation which threatened them by robbing and plundering each other. Thus they increased their external calamities by internal strife until the whole land was left without food and destitute expect for such relief as hunting brought.[...]

Meanwhile this famine, which left to posterity a lasting memory of its horrors, afflicted the Britons more and more. It compelled many of them to surrender to the plundering foe; others, trusting in divine aid when human help failed them, would never give in but continued their resistance, hiding in mountains, caves, and forests. At last they began to inflict severe losses on the enemy who had been plundering their land for many years. So the shameless Irish robbers returned home, intending to come back before long, while the Picts, from that time on, settled down in the furthest part of the island, though they did not cease to plunder and harass the Britons occasionally.[...]

At this time Æthelfrith, a very brave king and most eager for glory, was ruling over the kingdom of Northumbria. He ravaged the Britons more extensively than any other English ruler. He might indeed by compared with Saul who was once king of Israel, but with this exception, that Æthelfrith was ignorant of the divine religion. For no ruler or king had subjected more land to the English race or settled it, having first either exterminated or conquered the natives. To him, in the character of Saul, could fittingly be applied the words which the patriarch said when he was blessing his son, ‘Benjamin shall ravin as the wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night shall divide the spoil.’ For this reason Aedan, king of the Irish living in Britain, aroused by the successes, marched against him with an immensely strong army; but he was defeated and fled with few survivors. Indeed, almost all his army was cut to pieces in a very famous place called Degsastan, that is the stone of Degsa. In this fight Theobald, Æthelfrith’s brother, was killed together with all his army. Æthelfrith brought his war to an end in the year of our Lord 603, and the eleventh year of his reign, which lasted for twenty-four years. It was also the first year of the reign of Phocas who was then Roman emperor. From that time no Irish king in Britain has dared to make war on the English race to this day.